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A booth at COP20 in Lima - where the collective IQ of negotiators has barely achieved double figures. Photo: Climate Change via Flickr.
A booth at COP20 in Lima - where the collective IQ of negotiators has barely achieved double figures. Photo: Climate Change via Flickr.
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COP20 extended another day - but where's the money?

Alex Kirby & Oliver Tickell

12th December 2014

In a familiar ritual, the COP20 climate talks have been extended for an extra day as delegates struggle to reach some kind of agreement. The good news is that worthwhile emissions reductions may be achieved - but poor countries are asking: where's the money?

Commitments by China, the US and Europe on emissions cuts could mean significant progress towards ensuring that global average temperatures this century will rise less than predicted.

As negotiators enter into all all night session in Lima this Friday night, poor countries that are the main victims of climate change are asking the rich: "where's the $100 billion a year you promised?"

The Green Climate Fund was announced at the Copenhagen COP in 2009 as a $100 billion a year fund that would finance poor countries adaptation to climate change and their transition to a  low carbon economy.

But so far in Lima, the rich countries have pledged just $10 billion, to be released over four years - just 2.5% of the annual sum promised. As India's Prakash Javadekar told the Guardian, "We are disappointed. It is ridiculous. It is ridiculously low."

"We are upset that 2011, 2012, 2013 - three consecutive years - the developed world provided $10bn each year for climate action support to the developing world, but now they have reduced it. Now they are saying $10bn is for four years, so it is $2.5bn."

Meanwhile the main negotiating text has scarecely progressed beyond its initial seven-page draft, with deep faultlines set between rich and poor countries.

In a nutshell, the rich countries want to keep their cash, while the poor take on emissions cuts matching their own undemanding targets.

The poor, exemplified by India, want to see the rich make deep emissions cuts and to pay up on their climate fund promises, before signing up to any emissions targets at all.

Progress has been made - but outside the UN process

The only good news is that commitments by China, the US and Europe on emissions cuts could mean significant progress towards ensuring that global average temperatures this century will rise less than predicted.

Researchers say the post-2020 plans announced recently by China and the US and the European Union mean projected warming during this century is likely to be less than expected. The downside is that, even then, the world will still not be doing enough to limit the increase in average temperatures to below 2˚C.

The research, released at the UN climate change conference currently being held in Lima, comes from the Climate Action Tracker, an independent science-based assessment that tracks countries' emission commitments and actions.

It comes in the form of an assessment by four organisations: Climate Analytics, Ecofys, NewClimate Institute and the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research.

But these commitments were made before the conference. Many had hoped that they would provide the momentum and goodwill needed to reach a wider agreement. But that never happened.

Not enough to limit warming to 2°C - but a start

Together, the four groups measured government pledges and actions against what will be needed to limit warming below the agreed international goal of a maximum 2°C increase above pre-industrial temperature levels, and against the goal of bringing warming below 1.5°C by 2100.

China - which recently announced a cap on coal consumption from 2020 - and the US and EU together contribute around 53% of global emissions. If they fully implement their new, post-2020 plans, they would limit global temperature rise to around 3˚C by 2100, which is between 0.2˚C and 0.4˚C lower than it would have been.

Their plans are more ambitious than earlier commitments, and represent what the researchers call "significant progress". But they won't limit warming to below 2˚C.

"In the context of increasing momentum towards a global agreement to be adopted in Paris in 2015, this represents a very important first step towards what is needed", said Bill Hare, executive director of Climate Analytics.

"Tempering this optimism is the large gap that remains between the policies that governments have put in place that will lead to warming of 3.9°C by 2100, compared to the improvements they've made in their promises. These new developments indicate an increasing political will to meet the long-term goals."

Niklas Höhne, founding partner of the NewClimate Institute, said: "China's post-2020 emissions levels remain unclear and difficult to quantify. Its peak by 2030 falls somewhat short of a 2°C pathway. However, if emissions peak just five years earlier, this could make a very big difference and move them very close to a 2°C pathway."

Höhne added that the US, with full implementation of its proposed policies, appears likely to meet its 2020 goal of 17%. But further measures would be needed to meet its newly-proposed 2025 goals.

Targets lacking ambition - so far

The EU's current policies put it on a trajectory towards meeting its 2020 target. But it's not enough to meet its more ambitious conditional target of a 30% emissions reduction below 1990 levels by 2020, and the 40% reduction target by 2030.

Rapidly industrialising countries such as India could do more, say the reseachers. Recent discussions indicate that India had been considering putting forward next month a peak year for emissions between 2035 and 2050, which - depending on the level at which this peak occurred - could be consistent with a 2°C pathway.

"We only have a very limited amount of carbon that can be burned by 2050, and we calculate that current policies would exceed this budget by over 60% by that time", Hare said. "We clearly have a lot of work to do."

But with the rich countries failure to pay up that leaves an impossible mountain to climb for negotiators in Lima tonight. India is among those countries digging in its heels until the rich countries make much deeper cuts, and honour their financing promises.

The key question facing developing country negotiators will be whether it's better to settle for a bad agreement, or to emerge with none at all. Past form suggests the former - but don't count on it.



Alex Kirby writes for Climate News Network.

Oliver Tickell edits The Ecologist.



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